Uber’s Special Investigations Unit Keeps Eye On Driver Activities

Feb. 28th, 2019   /   , , , ,

uberWe applaud Uber for revolutionizing the transportation industry. Hailing a ride is super easy. It’s casual. Wait times are down. Prices are down. The technology is seamless. Countless jobs have been created. However, when you get into the back of an Uber car, do you really know what you’re getting into?

It’s fairly easy to become an Uber driver. In fact, it is so easy that Uber has signed up approximately 2,000,000 drivers. First, to become an Uber driver you need a car that under 15 years old (not a very high standard). Next, the driver needs to submit to a background test to ensure the following:

  • No convictions for violent crimes, sex crimes, reckless driving charges or DUI’s within the past 7 years,
  • No more than 3 traffic violations in the past 3 years,
  • Valid license for at least 3 years

A driver looking to join Uber can expect to go from signup to driving in approximately 7-10 days. There is no start-up expense, interview process, or specific time commitment. As a result, many people test the water as Uber drivers without having any professional driving experience or long-time commitment to the industry.

uber safety

Considering the millions of riders and drivers, it should not surprise you that Uber has had incidents of improper driver conduct. Uber created a Special Investigations Unit charged with the responsibility of improving safety for both drivers and passengers. However, are they doing a good job? Should additional steps be taken to ensure driver and passenger safety?

An outside risk management consultant has recently released a 26-page memo examining the frighteningly inexperienced, overworked, and distraught team members of Uber’s Special Investigations Unit.  The memo divulged that the team responsible for keeping Uber drivers and riders safe were underpaid, emotionally traumatized, and exhausted as they attempted to handle nearly 1,200 cases each week.

The internal memo, dated May of last year, states that Uber’s SIU team was comprised of 60 investigators with 15 leaders, many of whom were in their 20s and 30s, lacking any experience in crisis-related jobs, coming from previous employment backgrounds such as a Starbucks barista and a manager at Chipotle.  The average hourly pay for these investigators was $18.50 an hour.

The memo did, however, denote that other SIU investigators did have “law enforcement, investigations, and military backgrounds.” Still, it went one to remark on the “serious level of stress and anxiety of team members,” regardless of their prior related experience.

Initially, the SIU employees were drawn to the company because they enjoyed “being associated with a ‘hot’ brand.”  Now, with the enormous weekly caseloads, the memo warned that these team members were susceptible to mental health risks, including the potential risk of suicide.

The actual cases the SIU were investigating raises cause for alarm, as the memo cites that trust in the company “is eroded by periodic, but serious allegations of inappropriate or illegal conduct, notably by drivers and occasionally by hostile passengers.”  However, details of these cases are still unknown, as the memo isn’t slated for public consumption until sometime in 2019.

Complaints are based on varying levels of severity, but the caseload for the SIU only consists of the more grievous of them.  These higher level cases, one being Level 3, concerns physical assaults and crashes, then move to Level 4’s, where complaints are of rape, sexual assaults, and even deaths.

According to CNN, a search of evidence gathered from public data and police reports of 103 drivers accused of sexual assault or abuse by passengers since 2014.  Following this investigation, Uber swiftly did away with policies forcing individuals to sign non-disclosures concerning their reported sexual assaults, began conducting background checks on drivers, and partnered with RapidSOS to install an emergency button on the Uber app.

Uber has once again declined to specify when, exactly, it will release the data on sexual assaults and other troubling incidents. Brooke Anderson, Uber’s head of safety communications, released a statement stating, “We have been putting safety at the heart of everything we do.  Uber will continue to focus on safety in 2019, including through the release of an accurate transparency report.”

Still, there remains a lingering question of just how easy is it to become an Uber driver?  And with Uber’s questionable track record of both passenger and driver safety and hesitation to release this information, the numbers the company does end up publishing could be dubious.

We love the technological advancements Uber has brought to the transportation industry. But with change also comes new obstacles–many of which are manageable. Let us know what steps you think Uber can take to help promote further safety?

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